An (almost) zero waste DIY oil change.

I once ended up at a Jiffy Lube desperately needing an oil change. (I was about 5,000 miles over the 5,000 mile suggested limit.) It was my first time getting an oil change without a Groupon to help slash the price.

After two hours of waiting, my car was finally ready with brand new oil in the engine and a sparkling new oil filter.

“That will be $65…..” said the clerk.

“$65?! Are you kidding? That’s what I’d pay for a fancy steak dinner, not an oil change!”

“Sorry. Your car requires synthetic oil, which is slightly more expensive…..”

Slightly? That was like triple the price!

Thinking that they were complete liars I picked up the owner’s manual. They were right. My car did in fact require this fancy, expensive, synthetic oil. (Another thing I’ll check before I get a new car.)

But I was still not pleased with the $65 price tag. There’s just no way that in 2019, when cars are ubiquitous, oil can be that expensive!!

A trip to the local Auto Zone confirmed my suspicions. An oil filter and five quarts of fancy synthetic oil cost $27. Including tax!

So, 5,000 miles later, when it was once again time to change my oil, I decided to kick Jiffy Lube to the curb, save $40, and DIY it.

As with any DIY project, I watched a ton of You Tube videos first. Good news! The videos clearly indicated (with only a bit of editing) that an oil change should be no more than a 10 minute ordeal.

Great! I could get my oil changed before dinner!

I gathered the necessary tools (and my significant other for some help). After some digging around underneath the car and struggling with getting the drain plug out, I finally drained all the nasty old oil and un-screwed the old oil filter.

Then, I installed the new filter, plugged the drain plug back in, and treated my car to some brand new oil. Totally crushed the DIY oil change! (Though it took me way more than 10 minutes to crush it.)

However, this oil change left me (a self-proclaimed zero waster) with some unusual trash to dispose of. What in the world do you do with used motor oil and an oily oil filter? (The instructions on the packaging are usually useless when it comes to this.)

I went back to Auto Zone and asked the clerk for some guidance. (They’re the pros. They should know….)

“We recycle the used oil if you bring it back to the store.” The clerk told me.

“Excellent! I’ll do that. What about the oil filter?” I asked.

“I just toss it in the regular trash.”

Yikes! That doesn’t seem right! Motor oil and steel in the landfill trash? There is no way that could be the answer.

So I consulted my best friend, Google, and long and behold, I found the truth!

Oil filters SHOULD NOT go into landfill trash! Not only are they hazardous waste, but they can be recycled!

Austin Resource Recovery and Hays County both accept used oil filters for recycling. The steel in these filters can be used to make new cars and the oil residue can be used to make asphalt for roads. (Here is a great video that shows some of this recycling in action.)

However, if you throw your oil and oil filter into the landfill trash, these resources will be lost forever, further fueling the toxic stew that is already brewing in the landfill.

(A quick Google search can help you find an oil filter recycling facility wherever you live.)

Post oil change clean up.

I still have a few pieces of trash from this endeavor that I need to figure out what to do with. (Mainly the paper towel I used to wipe the oil from my car and the piece of cardboard that I placed under the car to catch any spilled oil. Anyone have any ideas?)

Additionally, is it possible to do an oil change without spilling any oil? I have no idea, but I am going to try to use a wider oil collection pan next time to see if that helps. How awesome would it be to do a completely zero waste oil change at home?

P.S. Speaking of recycling car parts, did you know that you can also recycle your car battery!? This realization was life-changing!

I took my old car battery, along with a bunch of batteries people had dumped on my property (I live in a rural area, so trash gets dumped along the road quite often) to Auto Zone and received $30 in store credit!!

I used this store credit to pay for the oil filter and oil, essentially making this a FREE oil change. If you have an old battery to get rid of, don’t throw it into landfill trash! Dump it in my yard instead. Or, if you’re really ambitious, call around and see if there is an auto parts store that will recycle it for you!

Do you have any tips for zero waste oil change or other car repairs? If so, leave them below.

Happy Zero Wasting!

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